The murder of Laura Ann “Lauri” Carleton for displaying a rainbow Pride flag outside her San Bernardino County store is a horrifying reminder of the mortal fear that queer people and our allies live with every day.
Carleton, 66, was shot to death on Aug. 18 after an argument with a stranger over the rainbow Pride flag she had put up outside her boutique store in the small Southern California town of Cedar Glen, about 80 miles east of Los Angeles.
Although not a member of the LGTBQ+ community himself, Carleton was reportedly an outspoken advocate and ally of the queer community. According to a police press release, the suspect made “several disparaging remarks” about the flag before shooting Carleton. The suspect fled and was later killed by police during a standoff.
The dimensions of the tragedy in this story begin and end with hatred for our LGTBQ+ neighbors across America, even within a state as progressive as California.
LGBTQ+ people are nine times more likely than non-LGBTQ+ people to be victims of violent hate crimes, according to a new study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.
Tragically, the support Carleton showed to our community symbolizes the kind of acceptance and community that can make queer youth feel safer and more welcome, and yet she was killed for showing that kindness. In a 2019 Journal of Youth and Adolescence article, Dr. Jessica Fish, assistant professor of Family Science, said that LGBTQ+ youth who participated in community-based support programs had better mental health and were less likely to become victims of substance abuse.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which this year declared a national emergency for the LGBTQ+ community, reported that a record 520 anti-LGBTQ+ bills will be introduced in U.S. state legislatures by 2023, including more than 220 bills specifically targeting transgender people. and non-binary people.
“The increasing threats facing millions of people in our community are not just perceived — they are real, tangible and dangerous,” said HRC President Kelley Robinson. “In many cases, they result in violence against LGBTQ+ people, forcing families to uproot their lives and flee their homes in search of safer states, sparking a tidal wave of increased homophobia and transphobia that threatens the safety of all. us in danger.”
Last June, Republicans in the state capital walked out of parliament during a Pride Month celebration. In July, the Chino Hills Unified School District voted to forcibly exclude transgender students from the entire student population and their parents; and that same month, protesters violently stormed a Woodland bar, making threats and canceling a drag event.
Hate crimes occurred in 2012 when Brandy Martell, a 37-year-old transgender woman, was fatally shot in a car in Oakland, and in 2008 when a 14-year-old boy fatally shot his openly gay 15-year-old. classmate through the head while they were at school in Oxnard. More than 20 years ago, the double murder of Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder shocked the state when they were killed by Christian extremists simply for living openly as gay men in Shasta County.
Tragically, that danger has not yet passed. The murder of Carleton in California last weekend demonstrates the ongoing threats to gay people and their allies today.
A frightening consequence of Carleton’s assassination now, in the face of these mounting attacks, would be that it would cause potential allies to take a neutral stance or refrain from continuing the necessary cultural conversations on these topics. Hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community occur every day for decades; it is dangerous for us every day. Your continued alliance not only deserves our deepest gratitude, but also means the most to us during the times when it is most dangerous for you as well.